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About GameSetWatch

GameSetWatch.com is the alt.video game weblog and sister site of Gamasutra.com. It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

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Archive For September, 2008

Opinion: Tell Me What Art Is, and I’ll Tell You What Games Are

September 27, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[In this opinion piece, semi-pseudonymous Game Developer magazine columnist Matthew Wasteland takes a look at gaming's place in the creative canon, looking at what critics miss within gaming, and what everyone needs to understand about games as an artform.]

Most people in the video game industry, and many people who write about them for a living, hope for games to be taken seriously as art or literature. It’s just around the corner, we believe— the day the establishment flings open the door to us and lets us in, apologetic tears streaming from their eyes. “We misjudged you,” they’ll cry, “Just like we initially misjudged movies, jazz, and prose poetry.” Games are a brand new medium, we console ourselves, and these hidebound fogeys just need time to understand it.

The conventional wisdom is that we’re nearly there— that everyone on our side is just being a little too uncreative, or that the software tools are just a bit lacking, and that our wildest dreams are possible with just a little more cleverness in our game designs and some new technological developments. “Design challenges” at industry conferences exhort professionals to stretch their brains by sketching out an idea based around something perceived to be an unconventional subject matter (for games, anyway); Moby Dick, for example. We may not have much cachet, people may shrink away when we explain what we do at non-industry social gatherings, but hey! Just the other day we were talking about ideas for games based on Moby Dick! How could that not be serious and important?

Exploring Online Worlds: GameForge's Ikariam

September 27, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Mathew Kumar is continuing his excellent work on our sister online worlds site WorldsInMotion.biz, and in the course of compiling the Worlds In Motion Atlas has had reason to check out Ikariam, which is a browser-based Civilization-ish type thing and it... well, interesting, for lack of a better term.]

Here's an overview of Ikariam. Online worlds are usually avatar based, and if they're games, they're normally RPGs. Developer GameForge bucks the trend with a browser based real-time strategy title that is most usually compared to Sid Meier's Civilization series.

2008_08_13_ikariam.jpgName: Ikariam

Company: GameForge

Established: February 2008

How it Works: Ikariam is browser based and runs in HTML and Javascript. Navigation and gameplay are accomplished via mouse and keyboard input.

2008_08_13_ikariam2.jpgOverview: In Ikariam, users create a town on a randomly assigned island. On their island are up to 15 other players, plus a sawmill and a unique resource. The aim of the game is for the player to create the largest and most prosperous city by accumulating resources through production, trade or warfare, and developing new technologies and buildings as a result.

Payment Method: Ikariam is free to play, and earns revenue via "Ikariam Plus" a system where players can purchase "ambrosia" which can be spent to receive in-game bonuses.

Key Features:
- A massively multiplayer real-time strategy title
- "Always on" - players' cities are costantly working, even when they're not logged in
- Players can not only fight with each other, but perform diplomacy, forming alliances and trade agreements

Ikariam: In-Depth Tour


When most gamers think “real-time strategy” they tend to think of games like Command and Conquer and Age of Empires. However, Ikariam is a lot more leisurely paced, but can also be (perhaps surprisingly!) more stressful!

You see, Ikariam is a “real time” title in that after you’ve founded your city (in my case, Arx Prosperitas, which I hope means “Prosperous Fortress”, but I’m not particularly good at Latin) you simply set your townsfolk to some tasks -- usually researching discoveries, working at the island’s saw mill for materials, and constructing new buildings.

And then you wait in real time.

Best Of Indie Games: For the Multiwin

September 27, 2008 12:00 AM | Tim W.

[Every week, IndieGames.com: The Weblog editor Tim W. will be summing up some of the top free-to-download and commercial indie games from the last seven days, as well as any notable features on his sister 'state of indie' weblog.]

This week on 'Best Of Indie Games', we take a look at some of the top independent PC Flash/downloadable titles released over this last week.

The goodies in this latest version include two major commercial indie releases, a Castlevania-type platformer, a collection of interactive puzzles, a procedural generated shooter, and a DigiPen student project.

Game Pick: 'Multiwinia' (Introversion Software, commercial indie - demo available)
"The award-winning Darwinia was recently given a huge facelift under a new name and boyo, did the guys at Introversion deliver. This multiplayer strategy game now sports six different gameplay modes to choose from, as you engage other players for ultimate supremacy online."

Game Pick: 'Mount & Blade' (TaleWorlds, commercial indie - demo available)
"A 3D open-ended RPG set in medieval times, and possibly the best (and only?) sandbox sword-fighting game available in the market today. There's just so much to do here that the slightly steeper price is more than justified, as the value you get from it is near limitless."

Game Pick: 'Armed Generator Doom Machine' (Beau Blyth, freeware)
"A game not unlike mon's Fraxy and Hikware's Warning Forever, where every boss encounter is procedurally generated to ensure a small percentage of randomness and variation."

Game Pick: 'Hoshi Saga 3' (Nekogames, browser)
"Yoshio Ishii is back with his latest work, as fans gather for more star-searching activities in this unique browser game. Some of the puzzles presented here will have visitors scratching their heads at least a couple of times while figuring out the solution to all thirty stages."

Game Pick: 'Glitch' (Team Glitch, freeware)
"A first person shooter created by a group of DigiPen students, freely available for download from DigiPen's gallery page. Your given objective is to survive twenty-five waves of enemies whilst trapped inside a room with high ceilings and rising platforms."

Game Pick: 'Vampire Blaze' (RED, freeware)
"A freeware platform game which seems to have taken the best elements from early Castlevania releases and updated them for this project with improved controls, decent graphics and a catchy soundtrack."

Interview: How Spectrobes Sold A Million For Disney

September 26, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Disney's original IP Spectrobes for DS has surprisingly sold over a million units, with a follow-up imminent - and was really pleased that Chris Remo went off the beaten track to hunt down producers Kentaro Hisai and Tim FitzRandolph - talking about the Jupiter (The World Ends With You)-developed title, its genesis, and why it, perhaps puzzlingly, is not yet a big Japanese success.]

There's a first time for everything -- even for major companies like Disney Interactive Studios. Next month, it launches Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals, the second game in the publisher's monster-collecting RPG series -- its first franchise not based on any existing Disney works.

The Spectrobes IP was created explicitly for the international video game market as a collaboration between Disney's American and Japanese offices. Development has been handled by independent Japanese studio Jupiter (The World Ends With You).

Though the first game sold over a million units worldwide -- a relatively impressive feat for a third-party Nintendo DS title -- it underperformed on its home turf of Japan, as international producer Tim FitzRandolph told Gamasutra in a recent interview, and the franchise is being essentially "relaunched" in Japan with the follow-up.

FitzRandolph was accompanied by Disney Interactive Studios Japan producer Kentaro Hisai, whose Japanese-language comments FitzRandolph interpreted.

The two developers spoke on the genesis of the Spectrobes IP, the impetus to create a game-specific project, and the challenges of developing a game concept with studios located on different continents.

Chewing Pixels: 'For Sale: Hero Shoes. Once Worn.'

September 26, 2008 8:00 AM |

- ['Chewing Pixels' is a regular GameSetWatch column written by British games journalist and producer, Simon Parkin. This time, he ventures into his MMO past to find out whether buyer's remorse exists, where virtual characters are concerned.]

“My total time played is 110 days, 23 hours and 11 minutes. See? No time at all compared to some!”

This is Lindsay Machin. For the last three years she has spent every day or so playing make believe in the magical kingdom of Vana'diel. It’s a lifestyle with which I’m familiar: battling monsters, earning gil, questing with friends and strangers into the early hours. After all, four years ago it was me who sold her the entry ticket.

Delve into the world of an MMO and you’re buying into more than just a video game. You’re taking on a new reality, one that makes almost as many demands of you to succeed as real life does. A year or so in to the first global console MMO, Final Fantasy XI and I needed out but, having imported a PlayStation 2, harddrive and copy of Final Fantasy XI from America at great expense, I also needed some recompense.

That’s where Lindsay came in. I sold her my MMO life via an Internet forum as a way out. Now, nearly four years later I’ve tracked her down to find out what happened when the experience left my hands and fell into hers.

I’m wary of MMOs; they steal time in a more relentless and vicious way than other videogames do. I‘ve see friends’ lives turned upside down by their unyielding intrusion. And the thought that I pushed something so potentially ruinous onto another human being has nagged at me for the last few years. I’ve some guilt to assuage.

“So, I guess my first question is…” I pause. "Actually, truth be told it’s probably my only question. Did I ruin your life?”

“Hehehe. You saved me a lot of money actually. Think of all the other games I would have bought if I wasn't playing FFXI every night. Actually, I did still buy a lot of other games, but I just didn't play any of them…” She seems sure. Too sure perhaps.

“Ok. Seriously, did I ruin your life? What's the stat for your character's logged time in weeks and days? Tell me you never lost a job or a boyfriend because of this game. Please.”

It’s a reasonable question. While we in the West are yet have any of those Korean news stories of withered boys dead at their screens after three straight days spent playing an MMO, Square-Enix still saw fit to put a warning at Final Fantasy XI’s start up screen. “Have fun in vana Diel,” the message reads each and every time you log into the game. “But don't forget your family, your friends, your school, or your work." Even the publisher’s aware that this is a videogame that can ruin lives.

“You did not ruin my life,” she answers, two parts smiling, one part annoyed now. “I have made real life friends who I love through playing FFXI. Some of us meet up every 6 months or so, but I’m in regular contact with three people who play, and through them have made even more real life friends, including some who I consider to be amongst my closest now.

GameSetLinks: The Little Big Planet Of Links

September 26, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

Yes, a double LBP post - having been lucky enough to get on the LittleBigPlanet beta, I'll be poking around this weekend in the plethora of levels already built by pre-release construction geeks - see below for a handy NeoGAF round-up of some of the highlights thus far.

But in the meantime, please to glory in the reproduction of these GameSetLinks, which include a little more Fristrom-esque feedback on the new Schizoid postmortem, plus indie games, ARGs, embargoes, and, uhm, brainpipes. Whatever they are.

Thunderdogs are go:

GameDevBlog: Schizoid Post-Mortem
There's, like, another postmortem in Jamie's post about the postmortem! Neat.

YouTube - E3 2008 Exclusive Gameplay Professor Heinz Wolff's GRAVITY WII AND NINTENDO DS
Not sure this video is the Wii or DS versions - still, another amusing Dr. Kawashima-related 'we'll get a scientist to endorse our game' thing. But it's a physics game, yay!

NeoGAF - View Single Post - The LittleBigPlanet BETA thread of hoo boy it's judgement time.
The Beta levels are really smart, this is probably the best user-generated content-oriented console game ever.

September 2008 Indie game Round-Up by Game Tunnel
Notable cos The Spirit Engine 2 hasn't got much buzz to date, but 'the illustrious panel' love it.

How USA used the Web to make Burn Notice an even bigger hit - Sep. 23, 2008
More ARG buzz, really.

Interview With Relic’s Tarrnie Williams — Part 1 « Vancouver Game Design
First question references Gamasutra, therefore we must link. Wait, that's a joke!

YouTube - experiencewii's Channel
Very funny, Nintendo/YouTube. Wait around, if you haven't seen the gag.

Drag-and-drop XNA development gets one step closer | Game Development | News by Develop
Good news, RPG Maker folks are certainly getting savvy about Western possibilities here, too.

Crispy Gamer - Column: From the Pulpit: Are Embargoes Really Necessary?
'But in the gaming industry, are embargoes really necessary? What is the overarching public concern?'

Digital Eel teaser image for... 'Brainpipe'?
The Pink Floyd (OK, Ozric Tentacles?) of the indie game scene tease a new title which looks... who knows? Awesome!

In-Depth: 24 Hours On A LittleBigPlanet

September 25, 2008 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili

[GameSetWatch correspondent Matt Hawkins was at the recently held LittleBigPlanet game jam at NY's Parsons School of Design, and he discovered what one of Sony's flagship holiday titles can do in the care of some inventive students.]

Once again, New York City's famed Parsons School of Design played host to another game creation competition. Their 24-hour game jams have become a staple in recent years, with this latest one, which went down this past weekend, being their fourth.

The first game jam saw student groups racing against the clock to produce a working, playable game that could theoretically run on the Atari 2600 platform, via Game Maker. The second was geared towards cell phones, with Flash being the primary toolkit, while the the third was focused on The Sims.

As in the past, it was a game publisher, not the school itself, that got the ball rolling. This time around, Sony offered the ball.

With the release of LittleBigPlanet, arguably its highest profile PlayStation 3 product this upcoming holiday season, the company was curious to see how its level editing toolset -- which was designed with novice game creators in mind -- would fare.

Thus, a student contest was conceived, allowing the game to be played and designed in the presence of somewhat knowledgable students who were still squarely in their target demographic, and Parsons was approached to provide the court.

GDC Canada Hits Vancouver In 2009

September 25, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Aha, it appears that our GSW colleagues who put together Game Developers Conference have been busy setting up a new event, GDC Canada, set for next May in Vancouver. Which is neat, because both Canada and the Pacific Northwest are pretty hot for development of late. Here's the official announce.]

Game Developers Conference organizer Think Services Game Group (also owners of Gamasutra and GSW) has announced that is partnering with Reboot Communications to create GDC Canada, with the first event to be held in May 2009.

In response to Canada's increasingly important role in the international game development landscape, the GDC has committed to bringing a world-class conference focused on fostering critical information exchange, creating connections and stimulating creativity.

Building on the success of the Vancouver International Game Summit, which this year featured keynotes from Microsoft's Shane Kim and Naughty Dog co-founder Jason Rubin, GDC Canada will feature global perspectives on cross-discipline and cross-platform content, with an eye to serving the increasingly significant Canadian games business sector.

The first Vancouver Game Summit, dedicated to bringing the Canadian sector international perspectives on developing games for the new generation of consoles, took place in 2007.

For the last two years, the Summit has served an audience of programmers, artists, game designers, producers, and studio leads. GDC Canada will retain the focus of serving developers, and promises to bring GDC-quality conference content through top-tier speakers offering fresh viewpoints.

GDC Canada will take place during Vancouver Digital Week, organized by local government entity New Media BC, billed as "...an immersive week of innovative programming and partnership opportunities for the digital media industry that features top minds from around the globe."

"GDC's strength is in its ability to translate its core values to provide both global and local relevance," says Kathy Schoback, Think Services' Executive Vice President of Global Events. "We are incredibly excited to partner with Reboot and New Media BC on GDC Canada, which will serve the regional development community with conference content designed to engender learning, networking and inspiration."

The show adds to the global portfolio of GDC events that currently includes the main GDC in San Francisco (March 2009) and Austin GDC (September 2009). More information on GDC Canada will be available in the near future at the official GDC Canada website.

Column: 'The Interactive Palette' - Three Kinds of Replay

September 25, 2008 8:00 AM |

Iji title screen['The Interactive Palette' is a biweekly GameSetWatch column by Gregory Weir that examines the tools and techniques of the digital games trade with a focus on games as art, using a single game as an example.]

One of the nebulous terms that game journalists seem to use to taunt developers is "replay value." According to many reviewers, a game's not very good unless it's fun to play multiple times. This is partly an issue of economy; a game that bears replaying provides more hours per dollar than one that does not.

It's more an issue of breadth, however. Replay value comes from many things, and one of them is the ability for the game to let players have a different experience each time they play. This breadth of experience means that players who enjoy a game the first time can experience more entertainment from the game by replaying in various ways.

Replay value's not just a buzzword. It means that players that like a game can see more of it without the developers creating an expansion pack or a sequel. It increases the longevity of the game in the hearts of individual players and, on a more mercenary level, increases the amount of time word-of-mouth can spread about the game.

There are three basic kinds of replay value. The first is the ability to reexperience previous game content, in relatively unaltered form, with a minimum of fuss. The second is the ability to reinvigorate the game's challenge by making it more difficult or adding constraints on the gameplay. The third is the ability to reimagine the gameplay by changing the goals or the style of the game on a second play-through. Each of these three has a different appeal to different players.

There's really no excuse for a developer making a large game to leave any of these three types out. Each of the three kinds of replay value — reexperiencing content, reinvigorating challenge, and reimagining gameplay — can be added to a game with little additional effort.

Daniel Remar's new indie game, Iji, is a good example of a game that gets this right. Besides single-handedly creating a strategic platformer to rival Flashback and Turrican, Remar included an array of features to enhance Iji's replay value.

GameSetLinks: Gumbeat Goes To DinerTown

September 25, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- We gots to provides the GameSetLinks, and this time, there's a whole random knot of them - starting out with some impassioned, video-strewn backup for a recent controversial Game Developer magazine editorial.

But also in here - a couple more games created by the Singapore/MIT Game Lab, the latest 'Dash' franchise addition from PlayFirst, some rare prototype info from a canceled Atari 2600 game featuring The Residents, an attempted Lester Bangs game rant, and much more besides.

Big top peewee:

Brandon Sheffield declares graphics have become a commodity « Malstrom’s Articles News
Just noticed this v.interesting editorial replying to GDMag EIC Sheffield's piece: 'What Sheffield is talking about is when customers are at a level when technology is ‘good enough’ for their needs.'

Ludus Novus :: Benmergui’s Three Views of Love
Some interesting experimental games made for TGS' Sense Of Wonder Night - one of which is going to be featured!

GAMBIT: Updates: GumBeat debuts!
'Master our mastication-engine and gleefully guide a cohort of cavorting citizens past the police in order to persuade city hall to relax its War on Snacks in GumBeat!'

Press The Buttons: Penn And Teller: Bullshit! To Cover Game Violence
'The gaming community's self-appointed nemesis, Jack Thompson, claims to be part of the episode.'

PlayFirst® - A Not-So-Little Place Called DinerTown - PlayFirst Grapevine
Building a franchise around Diner Dash, and introducing "...Parking Dash... a time management game with a healthy dose of puzzle play."

A Brief History of A & B - The Quixotic Engineer
'With all the variety in gamepad mapping, it should come as no surprise that even veteran gamers can be betrayed by their muscle memory sometimes.'

GAMBIT: Updates: Announcing Moki Combat!
'No gamer will deny the abundance of games with the simple objective "defeat all enemies." What is remarkable, though, is that so few of them feature mounted combat, never mind having it as the primary focus.'

UNIQUE! - RESIDENTS / ATARI 2600 Video Game DEVELOPMENT - eBay (item 280269053469 end time Sep-29-08 19:00:00 PDT)
'Between 1982 and 1984, I developed games at Atari for the 2600 VCS system. One of the games which was about halfway done and (obviously) never released, was based on the San Francisco cult music band known as The Residents. Specifically, their album, "Mark of the Mole."' [Via GameSniped.]

dConstruct round up | Technology | guardian.co.uk
'Every time I've suggested to games people that they meet up with the weberati - an industry that has a far more mainstream and accepting audience than interactive entertainment, mind - I get a slap.'

Video Game Reviews and Essays: Lester Bangs rant
Some experimental game-ish writing based on that fellow that we don't have one of in game journalism, or something.

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